The Kansas City Chiefs are set to kick off one of the most anticipated seasons in franchise history next month, and as fans file into Arrowhead Stadium this year to watch Patrick Mahomes and company in person, they'll immediately notice some major improvements to the iconic venue that took place over the offseason.
In fact, the Hunt family and the Chiefs invested $12 million into the stadium over the last several months – the bulk of which paid for new concrete and seats - in order to bolster the unforgettable experience that accompanies a trip to Arrowhead.
"We celebrate the Arrowhead experience and we know it's our point of difference," said Chiefs President Mark Donovan. "It's something that is unique and special about us, but it's also something that we need to continue to invest in."
The Chiefs exemplify that mindset every year through numerous investments – from massive, eye-catching projects to the less obvious, but still critical, improvements - and this offseason was no different with a handful of major renovations at One Arrowhead Drive.
The most-easily recognized of those projects are a state-of-the-art scoreboard, new seats in the upper deck equipped with cupholders and the GEHA Drum Deck, which elevates one of Arrowhead's favorite traditions to a permanent location hovering over the west end zone.
Each project was designed and implemented with an enhanced fan experience in mind, but those improvements make up only part of the work performed at Arrowhead over the offseason.
The Chiefs also re-applied water-proofing measures to the upper deck – which doubles as the roof of the CommunityAmerica Credit Union Club Level – in a process that involved replacing and reinforcing concrete in addition to adding a "Urethane Membrane" to the upper bowl to further enhance the deck's structural resistance to weather.
It's not the most overt update, but when it comes to maintaining Arrowhead's reputation as one of the top venues in all of sports, it may have been the most critical.
"The most-important renovation that we made from my standpoint was the concrete renovation in the upper bowl," said Brandon Hamilton, Chiefs Vice President of Stadium Operations. "Water is a big problem and will cause things to deteriorate quicker than what we want them to, so it was important to get this done and preserve the stadium."
The project required nearly every seat to be removed from the upper deck, which created an opportunity for Donovan and the Chiefs' decision-makers to take things a step further.
"We looked at what was an infrastructure project with the water-proofing and thought if we were going to do that, how can we use this to enhance fan experience and make it better?" Donovan recalled. "That really prompted the conversation about the seats."
Months of research culminated in the new seats, which are wider and feature cupholders while delivering a renewed game-day experience for fans watching from the upper deck. The renovations are just as visually appealing as they are functional, too, as the vibrant red seats – not to mention the Urethane Membrane, which offers a fresh look to the bowl due to its gray color – provides a pleasing aesthetic for those visiting Arrowhead.
"It really put a facelift on the building," Donovan said. "If you just look at the building, it looks newer, and I think that matters."
The project didn't happen overnight though, as it required extensive manpower working six days a week, and what makes it all the more impressive is how it was completed on-time despite immense challenges presented by the weather.
"It was unseasonably wet this spring, causing some extreme weather issues," Hamilton explained. "Every day that we lost because of rain, we had to make that up. A lot of overtime played into that."
The Chiefs battled the weather while renovating the scoreboard over the west end zone as well - which existed as an entirely different project running concurrently to the water-proofing and seat installation occurring in the upper bowl - but the elements weren't the only challenge.
There was also the issue of updating the technology within the board to rival the very best in all of sports while maintaining its trademark shape.
"That scoreboard shape is iconic, and it was really important to [Chairman & CEO] Clark [Hunt] and the family that no matter what we did, we needed to retain that board," Donovan explained. "That was important but also a challenge, because you're putting HD technology into an odd shape."
It certainly made things unique, but it didn't hinder the Chiefs' ability to install the very best product available. In fact, Arrowhead is now the only stadium in the NFL to feature this particular advanced scoreboard.
"This scoreboard puts us at the forefront of technology," Hamilton said. "It has the ability to do what's called a 9,000-nit rating, which allows us in bright sunlight – such as a noon game – to increase the output on the board to combat the sun and make it really bright. Right now, we're the only NFL team that has that technology."
The board – which was manufactured by Daktronics – also possesses HDR technology, providing a clear, 4K image to fans and even those on the sidelines.
"The feedback has been great," Donovan said. "We've told [Head Coach] Andy [Reid], when you're on the field and there's a play you want to see again, look at that board because it's going to be crystal clear."
And while fans – or Coach Reid, for that matter – are looking at the scoreboard, they won't have to stray too far to see Arrowhead's newest addition: the GEHA Drum Deck.
The idea behind the Drum Deck, which sits directly below the scoreboard above the west end zone, was to move the beating of the drum away from its largely hidden location on the field and elevate it both in terms of placement and stature.
"The ability to create a new part of Arrowhead that not only includes the drum – which will be part of the game-day experience – but also creates a cool standing area behind the drum is exciting," Donovan said. "We just thought it would be a fun project that adds another element to the game."
The drum was re-introduced in 2012 as a nod to old Municipal Stadium, where the Chiefs played from 1963-71 before moving to Arrowhead in 1972. Now nine years later, the Drum Deck only furthers that tradition as the Chiefs celebrate their 60th season as a franchise with the help of GEHA, who jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Chiefs on the project.
"It really provided a great opportunity for us to deliver something to a new partner in GEHA that has a big membership component to its business so that we can actually have their members up around the Drum Deck for every game," said Kim Hobbs, Chiefs Vice President of Corporate Partnership & Premium Sales. "It's always a positive when we find a partner who's interested in helping us provide benefits back to our fans."
It all combines to both extend and re-enforce what makes Arrowhead Stadium such an iconic venue in the world of sports, but the work is never complete. The building is 47 years old, after all, but through significant investments from the Hunt family and the franchise itself every single year, Arrowhead continues to deliver a fan experience worthy of Chiefs Kingdom.
Those investments range from exciting projects such as the new scoreboard and the Drum Deck to the more discreet - like enhanced security measures and updates to the infrastructure - but it all contributes to the best fan experience in the NFL.
"The Arrowhead experience is special," Donovan said. "And it's something that we look at with every single decision that we make."